Painting Ceramic Tiles: A Step-by-step Guide

Freshen up the Place With a Brand New Color

A Step-By-Step Guide To Painting Ceramic Tiles
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Ceramic tile is a hardware material made from clay and used in many roofs, floors, walls, and showers. This type of tile often has more design flexibility in comparison to porcelain tile, which has a harder and more durable material. You can transform an entire kitchen or countertop by simply painting the ceramic tile. If the tile is old and dingy, or just a color that you don’t like, you can get a fresh look with a careful covering of paint. Learn how to prepare for this project by gathering tools, choosing a paint color, and getting started.

1. Gather Equipment for Painting Ceramic Tile

There are about 15 types of tools and equipment you'll need to safely and successfully paint ceramic tile, as noted below. Make sure to gather these items before getting started on your project:

  • Top-quality tinted acrylic paint primer
  • Top-quality acrylic semi-gloss interior paint
  • Top quality urethane
  • Heavy-duty rubber gloves
  • TSP or other heavy-duty cleaners
  • Scrubber
  • Sponge
  • Painter's tape
  • Very fine grit (220-grit) sandpaper, electric sander optional
  • A cloth to clean up paint drips
  • Clean water
  • Rags
  • A paintbrush to cut-in around edges
  • A high-quality, lint-free, low nap paint roller
  • An artist brush to paint the grout lines

2. Choose a Paint Color and Type

Any color can be used and custom-matched to the paint or other decorative elements in your home. However, since the paint could eventually wear or scratch off, painting ceramic tile should be reserved for vertical surfaces or countertops. You'll also want to select a top-quality, 100 percent acrylic semi-gloss primer and paint since you'll be spending several days on this project, which requires the best materials available.

When painting ceramic tile, the primer and paint should be slightly thin and you should apply several fine layers of paint, rather than one thick layer. Use a brush to cut in the edges and roll the surface with a lint-free low-nap roller.

For a more realistic look, use a small artist brush to paint narrow contrasting grout lines after the final coat has dried thoroughly. This will require a lot of patience, but the results will be amazing. You can use a straight edge to follow the grout lines.

3. Review Cautions Before Painting Tile

There are a few things you should know before painting tile. For example, it's important not to paint a ceramic tile floor unless the main area of traffic is covered by a decorative rug. This is because shoes and dirt will cause the paint to scratch and wear off. It's also imperative that you do not paint ceramic tile in a shower or near a bathtub. This is because the constant moisture will cause the paint to peel off.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind before painting:

  • To preserve the painted tile finish, you will always need to use a cutting board on a countertop.
  • Never place hot pans on a painted ceramic tile counter. The heat will cause the painted finish to bubble and peel.
  • The surface of your painted ceramic tile will be only as good as the base you paint over. If the grout is broken or cracked, repair it at least 48 hours ahead of the painting day. If the tile is cracked or gouged, fill the imperfections.
  • It will take about two weeks for the paint to thoroughly dry and cure. You must be patient so that the surface will last.
  • If you don't execute proper preparations, you will not be happy with the finished product. Take the time to clean, sand, dust, dry, and paint very carefully.

4. Preparing to Paint Ceramic Tile

When you are getting ready to start painting your ceramic tile, follow the steps below. First, put on rubber gloves and cover any areas with a drop cloth near where you’ll be painting. Use painter’s tape to mask off the area and protect the surrounding walls.

  1. Repair any cracks or imperfections in the grout or tile. Allow the repair to dry for at least 48 hours before proceeding.
  2. Using a very fine grit sandpaper, sand the surfaces of the ceramic tile to break the gloss and allow the new coat of paint to stick. Take care to avoid pressing too hard. You don't want to scratch the tile.
  3. Wipe off all dry dust and clean up the surrounding area.
  4. Even if it looks clean, clean the tile thoroughly with a heavy-duty solution of trisodium ​phosphate (TSP). Add ¼ to ½ cup of TSP with a gallon of water and mix well. Apply the solution to the area you’ll be painting with a sponge, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Let the solution sit on the tile surface for one to two minutes to remove the build-up of soil, soap scum, or hard water deposits. Use a cleaning pad to scrub every area of the tile that’s to be painted.
  5. Rinse the surface several times and remove all residue of the TSP solution. Allow the tile to dry completely, then wipe with denatured alcohol to remove any little bit of dirt or residue that remains.

    5. Start Priming

    Use a paintbrush to cut the primer coat to the edges of the area, including around baseboards, cabinets, walls, ceilings, and appliances. Follow this procedure with both coats of thin primer and two coats of thin finish paint.

    Then, carefully use the low-nap short roller to apply one thin coat of primer, taking care not to push too hard on the roller. Roll the paint roller in all directions to avoid any edge marks and keep the surface smooth. Let the first primer coat dry thoroughly for several hours.

    After a few hours have gone by, cut in around the edges with a paintbrush and roll on the second thin primer coat. Let this second coat of primer dry overnight. If there are any noticeable paint lines on the surface the following day, lightly sand to smooth the area and wipe off all the dust.

    6. Begin Painting

    Cut in the first coat of finish paint with a paintbrush and apply a thin coat of finish paint with the roller. Then, let it dry completely. After it's dry, cut in the second coat of finish paint with a paint brush. Apply a second thin coat of finish paint with the roller and also ensure that it's completely dried. If desired, you can paint the grout lines with a contrasting paint and a small artist brush.

    To seal the newly painted ceramic tile surface, top the coat with a fine quality urethane finish. Let it dry for about two weeks to achieve the hardest surface and allow the paint to dry and totally cure. Finally, you will have your ceramic tile painted and looking brand new.